This provocative book takes a critical look at what is increasingly viewed as the central political issue for Catholics—abortion. From pro-choice politicians being denied communion to Democrats being called "the party of death," for some of the most vocal Catholic leaders, the abortion issue often trumps all others. The author, a practicing Catholic who is against abortion in principle, believes the Church is on the wrong course with this issue, with grievous results for the Church and American society more broadly. He gives a brief history of abortion legislation, then explores the issue from legal, moral, and Christian perspectives, presenting compelling reasons why Church leaders and Catholics should stop trying to overturn Roe v. Wade and reconsider the issue.
George Dennis O'Brien recognizes that no one will agree with all that he has written on abortion, but every reader will be challenged and stimulated by this probing book. -- Charles E. Curran, Scurlock University Professor of Human Values, Southern Methodist University This book offers readers a balanced approach to abortion. O'Brien gives voice to what intelligent, fair-minded people feel, but lack the words to express. Clear, persuasive, honest arguments lay waste to the bumper-sticker bombast from both sides of the abortion divide. The book is a gentle and effective example of how hard issues need not harden hearts but rather can be occasions for us to grow in wisdom and grace. Would that it could be required reading for all our Catholic bishops. -- Denise Carmody, Jesuit Community Chair in Religious Studies, Santa Clara University O'Brien takes on a highly vexed topic in a fresh and compelling way. He identifies overblown abortion rhetoric as a barrier to civility in the Church, to honest discernment of abortion's real moral costs, and to more effective ways to reduce abortion. But unlike other works decrying U.S. Catholic abortion politics, The Church and Abortion accessibly rounds out the full picture of Christian existence biblically and theologically. Appealing to God's Creation and Jesus' community of faith, hope, and love, O'Brien gives eloquent testimony to the mystery of Christian identity, to Christian compassion, and to a genuine commitment to Life. -- Lisa Sowle Cahill, J. Donald Monan Professor of Theology, Boston College Dr. George Dennis O'Brien agrees with the American Catholic Bishops that abortion is an intrinsic evil but, after that, there is little agreement on this issue: 'While it sounds harsh, abortion is an intrinsic evil, though one that may be licit or even required, given other serious moral foundations,' he argues in The Church and Abortion. An accomplished scholar and administrator-he taught philosophy at Princeton and Middlebury College and was President of the University of Rochester and Bucknell University-O'Brien has applied the wisdom gained through his experience in writing this important book. While debate about abortion often features uncompromising positions and assaultive language, O'Brien has managed to write in a reasoned, almost gentle, tone that expresses sensitivity to both the gravity of the event itself and to the tragic moral choice being made by the woman faced with the decision. He does not, however, avoid confrontation. He challenges the Catholic Bishops directly, noting that various Catholic spokesmen have called abortion 'homicide,' 'murder,' and 'genocide.' But, he argues, 'When launched into the political arena these claims mislead the faithful and do a disservice to the nation and the Church. Whatever the moral issues surrounding abortion-and they are serious-as political guidance these episcopal proclamations are sinful.' This conclusion is supported by a basic gap in the Bishops' ethical argument. O'Brien notes a 'fundamental principle in all ethical argument: who wills the end must will the means.' Failing to supply the means to reach the end espoused constitutes a half-truth. The Catholic Bishops either do not know the means to reach their stated goal of eradicating abortion or are not prepared to examine the required means. Examples in which pro-life advocates fail to support the logical means to attain their stated goals include attempts in South Dakota in 2006 and 2008 to pass restrictive laws criminalizing abortion, but which specifically excluded any criminal penalties for the woman obtaining an abortion. 'If the bishops are to be helpful moral guides, they should give some indication of what would constitute prudence in public policy.' Well-reasoned and thought-provoking, this book provides constructive guidance to anyone seeking insight into this issue, and a useful paradigm by which to analyze other public policy issues. It should be read by anyone interested in policy and the Churches' role in public debate-and anyone eligible to vote. * Foreword Reviews * O'Brien, former president of Bucknell University and the University of Rochester, has articulated a balanced perspective on abortion, which, given how contentious this issue has become, means it will probably please very few. Placing the words 'Catholic' and 'dissent' in the same title may turn some off, but this is hardly the primary purpose. The author's great contribution is illustrating a way to navigate this thorny social issue while maintaining civility and respect. He is a master of well-crafted arguments and does not allow ad hominem attacks and overly emotional rants to rule the day. The author understands the weak points of each side of this ongoing debate. Criminalizing abortion, he contends, is a road with a dead end for the pro-life contingent. To the other side he insists that a human fetus is not simply chaff-it is deserving of respect and some moral consideration. O'Brien is well versed on the literature regarding abortion, and he frequently quotes numerous scholars. A reader needs to have an open mind to benefit from this author's work, but those who do will gain much. * Publishers Weekly * George Dennis O'Brien has written a potent critique of the efforts of the Catholic bishops to make abortion illegal once again. Focusing on their lurid language, their heavy-handed pressure on Catholic legislators, and the incoherence and inconsistencies of their stance on the legal details of anti-abortion legislation, he makes clear that they have a weak case, even in their own terms. -- Daniel Callahan, senior research scholar and president emeritus, The Hastings Center, author of Medicine and the Market In this short, easy-to-read book, O'Brien delves into the ramifications of the bishops' position on the issue and argues their single-minded devotion to the overturning of Roe v. Wade is impractical, shortsighted, and has caused a rift in political discourse that gets in the way of the cause and misleads Catholics. * National Catholic Reporter * An insightful observation regarding the present tendency of religions to reduce their teachings to ethics. . . . O'Brien calls us back to a balanced perspective on the matter. * Commonweal Magazine *